by Michael Treveloni
Director Hajime Ohata has a double dose of talent on display with his two films The Big Gun and Henge. Both were made ambitiously on microscopic budges, swapping story for effects in a way that makes everything richer and scarier. When blood does start flowing it only magnifies the dread bubbling under the surface of the works. With short running times, the films get in and do what they need to do, leaving chaos in their wake as Ohata moves to his next horizon.
The Big Gun tells the story of a group of machine shop workers down on their luck. In hard economic times they scrape to get by. When a group of gangers pay a visit asking the workers to make cheap guns, it is hard for them to turn them away. They accept the offer, and the baggage that comes with it. The short film runs on brooding menace building quietly so that by the time it explodes we’re completely at its mercy. It’s a nice offering from Ohata that shows his lurking potential
Following the Big Gun comes Henge, a longer and more mature effort. Operating in completely different territory than his previous effort, Henge explores the depths of love and what sacrifices we’re willing to do under its weight. Keiko (Aki Morita) and Yoshiaki (Kazunari Aizawa)are a normal couple, except that he has strokes every few days and claims there is a creature inside him trying to break out. Keiko puts up with him until one night, while sleeping, he is a bit more convincing in his claims.
Understanding the risks he presets to Keiko, Yoshiaki removes himself from her life to try and get better. It is a choice that is tough for both of them, but one that is necessary Apart they are miserable, so when Yoshiaki returns mysteriously one night, asking to come inside the house, it is hard for her to turn him away. What they don’t understand is that his return comes with some serious side-effects.
By the time Henge shows its true colors, it is already too late not to be fascinated. It is a love story above everything else, but the scenic route it takes is refreshing. Ohata Directs like a slow-motion Shinya Tsukamoto, dealing in controlled outbursts of drama, violence and transformation at the hands of tortured souls. Keiko and Yoshiaki struggle is unique but relatable as everyone has their own monsters and vices. Showcasing love as horror isn’t anything new, the magic is in the presentation, something Ohata is perfecting each step along the way.
Both films demonstrate an unhinged ability to rattle the brain. Drawing on real life people in very unusual circumstances; and forcing them to stand against things much bigger than themselves presents a dizzying kaleidoscope of horror. The images tumble in a bedlam of conscious curiosity that isn’t affraid to show you one step beyond the lunacy. Ohata is a director to keep an eye on, he hasn’t hit his stride yet, but his gate is picking up and he’s showing a lot of promise.
The Upside: Both films present slow building horror that pays off.
The Downside: The Big Gun is a little too short, leaving a bit more to be desired.
On the Side: The Big Gun appears to be Hajime Ohata’s student project from 2008. The only production credit listed is from the Film School of Tokyo.